Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Monkey Eating Eagle

The Philippines Eagle or monkey-eating eagle is one of the most impressive eagles in the sky.  Found only on a handful of islands in the Philippines this eagle is one of the rarest animals in the world.
 The Phillipines Eagle--one of the largest eagles in the world
The low population is largely due to human encroachment on their habitat and a unique breeding cycle.  Despite all the pressures, there is hope for the bird through intensive captive breeding and conservation efforts.

 Females are considerably larger than the males standing almost three feet tall with nearly a seven-foot wingspan and weighing in at around 15 pounds.  The Philippines Eagle is recognized as one of the largest species of eagle in the world.  They are the tallest and have the widest wings (front edge to back edge) of all the eagles.  Males and females have a large bill almost blue in color, pale grey eyes, and long individual feathers on the crest and nape streaked with brown, giving it one of the most unique looks of all the eagles.  The wings are broad and the tail is long to help with maneuverability within the forests where it hunts its prey.  
At three feet, the Phillipines Eagle is the tallest species of eagle in the world 
Each pair has a range of about 80 square miles and prefers areas with old growth forests and large changes in elevation.  Although the name suggests that their diet consists of monkeys, the Philippines eagle is an opportunistic hunter and feeds on numerous creatures, from snakes to gliding lemurs, and hornbills.  Usually this eagle hunts alone, but is known to hunt as a pair during the breeding season, where one distracts the prey while the other attacks from behind.

The monkey-eating eagle is the national bird of the Philippines and is limited to only four islands.  Mindanao Island is where the bulk of the population is found, but the islands of Leyte, Luzon, and Samar have small populations as well.  The IUCN reports that the Philippines eagle is listed as Critically Endangered with an estimated population of 500 wild individuals.  The life span of the Philippines Eagle is around 30 years. 
This baby will stay in the nest for six months
Breeding pairs nest in the largest trees in their territory and usually raise only one baby every two years.  The baby will leave the nest when it’s about six months old and will stay in its parents’ territory for an additional year or so.   This slow reproduction cycle is a major factor in the recovery of the species.

There are many threats that are causing the disappearance of this amazing species. Cultivation, logging, and mining are the major culprits.  Nearly all the threats that are recognized are due to humans encroaching on the eagles’ habitat.  Still there is hope for this species.

The Philippine Eagle Foundation has over 32 eagles that were captive bred and is working to have a full reintroduction program.  More still needs to be done to secure the existence of this special bird.  Conservation, education, and reintroduction plans must be practiced to ensure future populations.

Submitted by Adam Triska, World Bird Sanctuary Field Studies Coordinator

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